Following KISS’s lucrative reunion in the late 1990s, the original four members re-donned the makeup and embarked on a world tour, releasing an album, a video game, a series of graphic novels and a whole universe of new merchandise in support of the event. With the band’s re-established super-stardom and a surge of successful 1970s period movies / TV programs of the time (Boogie Nights, Dazed and Confused, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Casino, Donnie Brasco, That 70’s Show etc), the production wheels were put in motion for a comedy about four teenage stoners travelling across the country to attend a KISS concert in 1978.
With child star Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and child star Sam Huntington (Jungle 2 Jungle) heading up a cast of relative unknowns, we get cameos from porn star Ron Jeremy, erotic thriller star (and wife of Gene Simmons) Shannon Tweed, aging comedian Joe Flaherty and the band themselves. Combined with a crew involving the director of Mousehunt, the writer of 2 unsuccessful Hellraiser sequels, Gene Simmons as a producer and working with less than half the budget of American Pie, the movie doesn’t particularly aspire to be a cinematic masterpiece.
However, what it does turn out to be, is a very funny stoner road movie. Based on the film’s credentials, Detroit Rock City doesn’t really have any right to be as entertaining as it actually is.
I first saw the film, around it’s time of release with no real knowledge of the band KISS. I was 12 or 13 and KISS had never really been big in the UK. One of the film’s greatest strengths is how well it plays to someone with limited understanding of the subject matter. Despite the KISS heavy soundtrack, constant references to the band and their career and KISS related Easter-eggs throughout, Detroit Rock City stands up as a great comedy in it’s own right.
A little more crass and risque than it’s comedy counterparts of the time, the movie is littered with sex, drugs and rock n’ roll throughout. It’s loud, it’s crass, it’s chaotic and it’s one of the reasons my love for KISS was initially ignited. After a series of drug fueled high-jinks including destroying a girls bathroom, getting a priest high on magic mushrooms, mugging a child, entering a stripping competition, the losing of virginity in a confessional booth and an inter-friends battle royal, the four protagonists eventually make it, to the greatest show on Earth.